He was the prosecution’s star witness and the only person who stood by his statement that Salman Khan was drunk and was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident on September 28, 2002.
In May, the sessions court took his evidence on record while convicting the actor. On Thursday, the Bombay High Court said Patil was not a “wholly reliable witness”, and his version needed to be corroborated with that of other witnesses.
The case saw 27 prosecution witnesses and one defence witness.
Patil, attached to the Local Arms II unit of the Mumbai Police, was assigned as Khan’s bodyguard on September 27, 2002, as the actor reportedly faced threat from the underworld. According to Patil’s statement, he was seated in the front, next to the driver, in the Land Cruiser. “They (Salman Khan and Kamaal Khan) came outside the (J W Marriot) hotel at about 2:15 am. Salman sat… (behind) the steering (wheel)… I sat near the driver’s seat. I asked the accused whether he would drive the car,” Patil said in his statement.
Stating that the actor ignored his question, Patil said Kamaal Khan was sitting behind the driver’s seat. “He (Salman Khan) was drunk and was driving… at the speed of 90 to 100 kilometres per hour. Before coming to the junction of Hill Road, I told Salman to lower the speed,” said Patil.
Stating that the actor ignored him, he said: “He could not control his motor car while taking the right turn and it went on the footpath. The people were sleeping on the footpath. The motor car ran over (them).” According to Patil’s statement, the vehicle “climbed three stairs” and hit the shutter of “the shop” nearby. “The motor car broke the shutter and went inside about three-and-a-half feet,” he said.
Patil’s examination before a magistrate was completed on March 16, 2006. After the testimony of 16 more witnesses, the case was sent to a sessions court as the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was applied. Patil died on October 3, 2007, after contracting tuberculosis, before the sessions court trial began in 2008. The sessions court invoked Section 33 of the Indian Evidence Act to take Patil’s testimony before the magistrate court on record.
The high court, however, observed on Thursday that when Patil gave evidence in the magistrate court, where the trial was first carried out, the actor was charged with causing death due to negligence. After the charge was amended to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Patil could not be cross- examined.
The court said Patil’s evidence “cannot be considered” as there was “erroneous application” of Section 33 of Evidence Act (relevancy of certain evidence for proving, in subsequent proceeding, the truth of facts therein stated) by the trial court.